Owners of a Kiwi beverage company have woken up to find themselves at the centre of an international media frenzy after a social media post about its sugar-free hot chocolate went viral and demand literally exploded.
West Auckland-based company Avalanche, which manufactures fresh, instant and sachet coffee and hot chocolate which is sold in supermarkets here in New Zealand and in Australia, has had to increase production and work round the clock 24/7 in a bid to meet the sudden and unexpected influx in demand.
It's also fielding phone calls from international media including the Daily Mail and news.com.
Co-owner Paul Tobin describes the sudden attention as "crazy".
"People are apparently going in to supermarkets and buying it up in armfuls," he said in disbelief.
"I think I've received 300 DMs from people all across Australia buying out all they can find."
The frenzy was sparked by a social media post by an Australian business woman called Kristin Fisher, who runs an eyebrow sculpting business and has 31,000 Instagram followers.
She posted an image of a box of Avalanche's 99% sugar free drinking chocolate on Instagram, with the caption:
"I feel like I owe this to my people. This needs to be on my feed. We need to know what is going on with @avalanchecoffee…"
The post went on to add that she could not find the product on supermarket shelves and this sent her followers on a frenzy to hunt down the product for themselves.
Tobin and co-owner Stefan Marusich say that before yesterday they'd never even heard of Fisher, but now they're not only following her on Instagram, they're planning to fly to Australia to personally thank her for the unexpected endorsement.
"Businesses can pay influencers a lot of money for this," Tobin said. "This has been great for our profile. We feel very, very lucky."
"The next day we started getting a wave of new orders from dozens of Woolworths and Coles supermarkets wanting to replenish their stocks," Tobin says.
"We are told customers have been going in and buying up any stock that is left then posting this to their own pages which is contributing to the demand."
Meanwhile Fisher has started calling herself "hot chocolate influencer".
She joked in an Instagram post, "So it turns out I am a hot chocolate influencer. Coles and Woolworths have SOLD OUT of the plain hot chocolate sachets. @avalanchecoffee you're looking at your newest ambassador. Payment in (plain) hot chocolate sachets. The coconut flavour is confusing me."
Tobin and Marusich started Avalanche 19 years ago, starting out as suppliers of coffee and hot chocolate for cafes and restaurants then extending their brand to be sold in supermarkets. They source their ingredients from overseas and manufacture their products in New Zealand.
Tobin says their 99% sugar free hot chocolate has proved particularly popular. They spent some time working on getting a great taste.
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